Join Tim DeChristopher, Wendell Berry, & Others on April 12 to Discuss Principled Activism

By Scott Gast, Orion magazine:

It’s been a bold few months for citizen climate action.

In March, University of Utah graduate student Tim DeChristopher was convicted for derailing an oil and gas auction that would have sold off a huge chunk of Utah’s public land. And in February, thirteen Kentuckians, including farmer and writer Wendell Berry, walked into their governor’s office and refused to leave until they got what they wanted: a promise from the governor to pay attention, finally, to the havoc wreaked on Kentucky by mountaintop-removal coal mining.

Not going to Powershift? Or looking for an extra dose of inspiration before trekking to DC next weekend? Here’s a chance to hear from the activists themselves:

On April 12, at 7 pm Eastern, 4 pm Pacific, Orion magazine will host Tim DeChristopher, Wendell Berry, and Teri Blanton (Teri joined Wendell for the Kentucky Rising sit-in in February) for a free, live web discussion.

The group will discuss how climate activism is changing, what can be learned from the peaceful uprisings in Wisconsin and the Middle East, and take audience questions.

Register for this free web event, here: http://bit.ly/gKIZXF

Tim, Wendell, and the members of Kentucky Rising are reminders of the real challenge in front of each of us: matching belief with action. With all the bold activism we’ve seen recently, is there a better time to stand up and speak for the future?

‘Climate refugees’ not recognized as ‘refugees’ by UN

credit: Ellie Johnston

Survival is not negotiable. And yet the right to survival for millions of people who have had to leave their home due to the effects of climate change is given little recognition by the United Nations and most countries. These environmental and climate refugees face uncertain conditions as they seek new homes in areas that can be less than accommodating—to say the least. A new report out of the UK suggests that by the end of the century one billion people could lose their homes to climate change.

What happens to these people when they are forced beyond their country’s borders and into foreign lands?

Refugees, as defined by the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, can be granted asylum in other countries. The UN definition of ‘refugee,’ however, does not include those who are displaced by the impacts of climate change. The definition is exclusive to those who “have a well-founded fear of being persecuted” if they return to their country. Some have proposed that the definition could be expanded to include environmental disasters, though this is unpopular due to fears that it may undermine the already tenuous status of political refugees. What is needed is possibly an entirely new UN treaty or an amendment to an existing one that codifies the rights of those who are forcibly displaced by climatic and environmental disruptions and must leave their countries.

Continue reading ‘‘Climate refugees’ not recognized as ‘refugees’ by UN’

Southeast Student Renewable Energy Conference

Tumultuous times call for strong communities and relationships to be forged as we break our ties to dirty energy. This October, Southern youth are coming together for a rendezvous of old friends and new partners at the Southeast Student Renewable Energy Conference (SSREC). Here in the Southeastern United States, we are constantly playing David and Goliath with dirty energy companies whose profits come at the cost of human health and the environment. The BP catastrophe is only the latest in a long line of attempts to capitalize on fossil fuels that have left people struggling in their wake. Though through struggle we grow and so it appears that the frustrations with dealing with coastal cleanups, lapsed regulatory permits, and proposed coal plants are being channeled into a growing network of Southerners dedicated to quitting our fossil fuel addictions and envisioning a cleaner leaner energy economy.

Please come over to Athens, GA to join this clean energy movement at the Southeast Student Renewable Energy Conference (SSREC) on October 1-3, 2010. Continue reading ‘Southeast Student Renewable Energy Conference’

Oil continues to dump into the Gulf

<cross-posted on Southern Energy Network’s blog>

They said it was safe. BP’s environmental impact statement from February 2009 stated that it was,  “unlikely that an accidental surface or subsurface oil spill would occur from the proposed activities”, and that “due to the distance to shore (48 miles) and the response capabilities that would be implemented, no significant adverse impacts are expected [1].” Now, millions of gallons of oil have dumped into the Gulf of Mexico since April 20th and more continues to poor into the waters every day. Today President Obama is visiting Louisiana to assess the threat posed by this growing oil spill [2].

An oil containment boom is swamped by waves along the Louisiana coast at South Pass of the Mississippi River Thursday, April 29, 2010. (AP Photo/Bill Haber) via Boston.com

The Earth is now bleeding. Unfortunately a run to the pharmacy wont supply the Band Aids needed for this injury. Five thousand feet under the sea a pipe is spilling unknown volumes of oil straight into the Gulf. Attempts to recap it have been unsuccessful. Stopping the spill now looks like it could take weeks if not months, as a giant dome is developed to capture the oil and a “relief” well is drilled [3].

Oil, bottom right, is seen approaching the Louisiana Coast, top left, in this aerial photo taken 8 miles from shore, Wednesday, April 28, 2010. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) Via Boston.com

Continue reading ‘Oil continues to dump into the Gulf’

Asheville Summer of Solutions: An Invitation

cross-posted from the Solutionaries blog

To the restless young person who wants to spend their summer collaborating with a community to usher in solutions for our planetary woes,

You are invited to join Summer of Solutions Asheville for a summer of extraordinary possibility. Unique to the city of Asheville, and yet tied to the other Summer of Solutions programs, SoS Asheville will work within our community to strive towards sustainable community development. This summer program, led-by and geared towards youth, will offer different levels of participation with some participants living together, while others work on projects for short term or part-time durations. Projects will focus on things, which are, or can become, solutions to the underlying global, regional, and local challenges we face, whether that is our fossil fuel dependency or our fractured local communities.
As this is the first year of the program in Asheville, every participant can have a hand in shaping the outcomes and creating the projects that will define our Summer of Solutions. We will live and work together on at least one large-scale project and several smaller projects through the summer that will challenge us to develop new skills.

Asheville has played host to adventurers, artists, and visionaries throughout its history and provides a fertile ground for a program like Summer of Solutions to emerge. Building on generations of this experience we will collaborate with partners from city council to art collectives. We are initiating SoS Asheville with a listening project in order to become more keenly aware of the possibilities for our place within the community. As the listening project continues we suspect that projects will come out of the countless conversations and public dialogues we have. Currently though, we are beginning to develop potential projects that will support an integrated understanding of the community, alternative economic models, and energy efficiency and conservation. Continue reading ‘Asheville Summer of Solutions: An Invitation’

Vote Locally – Think Globally

This week on November 3rd, polls will open in communities across America. The ballot may not be filled with Presidential or Congressional candidates and the money spent on the campaigns is substantially less, but voting is still essential. Local politicians shape the communities we live in and should be taking action to mitigate and adapt to climate change and to ensure that our community’s energy sources are safe and clean.

A couple events this week have made me inspired by the work of local politicians and the importance of strong communities. The first occasion was the Asheville 350 rally in which over 300 people turned out in a city of 75,000 and listened as the mayor and I issued a call for bold climate action.

The second occasion was at our UNC Asheville environmental club meeting this week where a city council candidate came to ask for our votes and tell us about all the incredible sustainability projects she was already working on in city council.

However notable this one visit is, it was compounded by the fact that she was the third city council candidate to ask to speak to our club this month.

They get it. They know that young people are fed up with seeing job losses, dirty energy, and runaway climate change direct our future and that they will be voted out if they do not seek solutions. Continue reading ‘Vote Locally – Think Globally’

Our Gloomy Future — There is a Better Way

The future seems pretty dire as article after article is released describing a future planet that is ravaged by the effects of climate change. Just this week, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released a study that our future is shaping up to be worse than the most grim predictions of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC). Though despite the torrential downpour of bad news, we can not let ourselves become fatalistic about our future. Sure there is a lot of work to be done, but it is possible. Here is another story that is unfolding–one that reminds us there is a better way.


Ellie Johnston


Ellie works at Climate Interactive where she supports web development, communications, administration, and simulation development. She is also the Director of the Lead Now Fellowship at SustainUS, an organization that empowers youth to promote sustainable development. She has years of experience coordinating efforts to address climate change, from the local level to the international climate change negotiations, especially among young people. Formerly, she was Chair of SustainUS and a Project Coordinator on Berkshire Publishing's Encyclopedia of Sustainability. She has also served as the Chair of the Southern Energy Network's Steering Committee, Executive of Sustainability in UNC Asheville's Student Government, founder of the NC Student Climate Coalition, leader of her campus environmental group, and speaker at dozens of conferences and community events. In all of these roles she has worked to facilitate a greater understanding of the opportunities we have to address our global challenges from climate change to resource scarcity. Ellie has a B.S. in Biology from the University of North Carolina Asheville. Currently, Ellie lives in the southern Berkshires of Massachusetts.

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